Stuff you must read today (Wed, 23 Sep 2015)

  • The pursuit of beauty | The New Yorker
    “Pure mathematics, as opposed to applied mathematics, is done with no practical purposes in mind. It is as close to art and philosophy as it is to engineering… The pursuit of beauty in pure mathematics is a tenet. Last year, neuroscientists in Great Britain discovered that the same part of the brain that is activated by art and music was activated in the brains of mathematicians when they looked at math they regarded as beautiful”.
  • The unconscious allure of grand national narratives | The Straits Times
    “There will always be a need for a coherent account of the past in order to function as national communities. But we need to remind ourselves that we can also recognise the limitations of reflexive habits that play such a powerful role in guiding our views”.
  • Mumbai battles between medieval and modern times | Hindustan Times
    Human society will always experience competing tensions between progress and regression, while its people will always spout strange rhetoric to delude themselves – or others – so as to reinforce flawed beliefs.
  • This free online encyclopedia has achieved what Wikipedia can only dream of | Quartz
    How an online repository achieved the “impossible trinity” of authority, expanse and currency when it comes to providing data and information for research and scholarship.
  • What the British are really laughing about | The Leveller
    “…David Cameron’s nasty little scandal speaks to a suspicion many people already have: that in British society, you don’t get to become Prime Minister because you’re talented or because you work hard. You don’t even get there just because you’re rich. You get there by traumatizing the homeless and skull-fucking a dead pig, and that ritual gives you power because you have demonstrated utter, pathetic submission to your fellow oligarchs”.

What’s so significant about having a place to stand?

This is a question from Formspring that deserves a blog post to itself, much like the one about the point of learning literature.

For context, I often use the line “All I need is a place to stand” in the About Me portions of my social networking pages.

The question of “What’s so significant about having a place to stand?” comes from a student who wants to know why I place so much importance on the above-mentioned phrase.

Before I explain, though, I’d like all of you to read the following pages before coming back here:

Now, Archimedes was a mathematician who is believed to have said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth”.

This is with reference to the law of the lever, where one can use a small effort to move a great load, so long as the distance between the effort and the fulcrum is sufficiently longer than that between the load and the fulcrum.

However, we can also interpret “move” as a metaphor to mean ‘affect in an inspirational manner’ – something which Archimedes’s findings have done for the world.

Therefore, I am leveraging on (pun intended) Archimedes’s metaphor to explain my own ambitions in life; ideally, I’d like to do what Archimedes has done and change the world with a small idea one day.

Before I can do that, however, I need to find a niche or an area in which I can make a difference. Once I find this niche/area, I know I’ll be good to go.

Hence, “[a]ll I need is a place to stand”.

TL;DR: Don’t be a lazy shit – just read the damn post.

How to make your spouse’s or partner’s day.

I think this should work regardless of whether she/he has a working knowledge of algebra and/or inequalities.

First, text her/him this message:

Given 9x – 7i > 3(3x – 7u), solve for i.

If she/he can obtain the answer, then you can skip the rest of this post. This assumes you’re not a dunderhead and that you’ve managed to obtain the answer too.

Otherwise, she or he will probably convey her/his uncertainty to you via “Huh???” or some other less graceful reply. If that happens, then you can proceed to demonstrate your mathematical prowess in this manner!

(Running commentary in the hyperlinks in case you need the explanation – just move your mouse cursor over the hyperlink and wait for a while. An explanation will pop up shortly.)

9x – 7i > 3(3x – 7u)
9x – 7i > 9x – 21u
9x – 9x > 7i – 21u
0 > 7i – 21u
21u > 7i
7i < 21u
i < 3u

= i <3 u or i ♥ u

Cute right? Got this idea from this website.


  1. There is a possibility that this is old news. If it is, please forgive my dinosaurian ways.
  2. The worst thing I foresee happening: a text message that inadvertently breaks up your relationship or marriage. I disavow any responsibility if that happens. But I’d be interested in knowing about it if it does – it’ll make a nice story to tell the grandkids, I think.

Happy very belated Valentine’s Day, everyone!